NEWS: School Choice Program in Pennsylvania Hits Snag

From The Morning Call in Pennsylvania:

HARRISBURG—What a difference a few days can make.
When state lawmakers rolled into town Monday, it was widely expected the Senate would sign off on a school vouchers bill and send it to the House, putting the bill into position for final approval by late June.

Four days later — and after an unusual intercession from Gov. Tom Corbett — Republicans who control the state Senate say they’re looking for a clear sign his administration supports the bill now before the chamber. GOP leaders also are looking to assuage concerns from rank-and-file senators skittish over the cost and scope of the legislation.

If all goes to plan, Senate Republicans hope to have those concerns resolved by the time they return to session on April 26.

“That’s our goal,” said Erik Arneson, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware. “We believe it’s realistic.”

Acting Education Secretary Ronald Tomalis surprised Senate Republicans on Tuesday by saying the administration was on the fence about the vouchers bill sponsored by Senate Education Committee ChairmanJeffrey Piccola, R-Dauphin, and Sen. Anthony Williams, D-Philadelphia.

The bill is the chamber’s marquee effort for the new legislative session, so Corbett was called in to do damage control. He exhorted lawmakers to send him a vouchers bill to sign.

But the Republican governor stopped short of endorsing Piccola’s bill. The actions mirror statements Corbett made at a vouchers rally before the caucus meeting, where he told hundreds of private school students, their parents and teachers that lawmakers would enact, and he would sign a bill “[allowing] parents to do what is best for their children.”

The administration did not return a call seeking comment.

On Wednesday, Arneson said Senate Republicans are “not entirely clear on what kind of bill the administration is looking for,” but attempts to clarify those concerns “will be part of our discussions over the next two weeks.”

Even if Senate GOP leaders can put together their own votes (and they’ll need to win over several of the chamber’s Democrats to do so), at least one key Republican in the House says he’s not interested in rushing legislation that would fundamentally overhaul public education in the state.

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